Review: 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'
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Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn
The Indian Express Rating: **
James Thurber wrote the short story on which this film is based back in 1939, it has been filmed once in 1947 and has made it to screen again after several failed attempts. You wonder why. If the long-enduring appeal of an ordinary guy who daydreams about fantastical events happening to him doesn't surprise you, what must is that neither film has anything in common with the book or with each other.
In this rather ordinary version, Mitty (Stiller) is a 'negative assets manager' at Life magazine, which is about to bring out its last issue in print. Firings have begun and Mitty faces lay-off unless he can locate a missing negative that famed photographer Sean (Penn) wants developed as Life cover (do photographers determine that, you wonder). The unlikely part is the adventure he must go through for that negative, based on Sean's photographs from the same roll as clues. So he travels to Greenland followed by Iceland, survives a volcano and treks the Himalayas, fulfilling of course what was a childhood dream.
There's nothing that comes as a surprise in Walter Mitty, least of all the tiresomely predictable daydreams he goes into as the film opens. And his discovery of his true self happens with too few wrinkles, and with too unlikely a hinge, to make an impression. On the contrary, the Walter Mittys of both the book and the previous film were saddled with problematic personal relationships.
Here the mother is Shirley MacLaine, the sister the always lovable Kathryn Hahn, and the office colleage, Cheryl (Wiig), he likes is nice and encouraging. The people he meets on his trips are equally nice people, in nice places. And that's when he is not daydreaming.